“Happiness is an ongoing process of fresh challenges, and it takes the right attitudes and activities to continue to be happy.” American psychologist Ed Diener was the leading expert in happiness and subjective well-being. Happy couples might look perfect but there’s a lot of work that goes on within.
You might feel jealous, depressed or even helpless when you see those seemingly perfect couples. They could even make you feel guilty for not sharing a similar bond with your spouse. They may make you want toimprove your relationship.
Whatever your feelings toward those couples, it’s hard not to notice their mutual respect and understanding. They seem to just appreciate each other with their whole demeanor.
So, how in the world do they do it? Communication is often the foundation but what does that really mean? Communicating isn’t just about what goes on externally. It’s impacted by your thoughts, feelings and assumptions. To be happy as a couple, you have to know yourself.
The good news is that you can develop healthy habits and train your mind. You too can then be part of a happy couple by starting with some of these dos and don’ts.
15 dos and don’ts that happy couples follow differently
One of the major things happy couples do is that they let go of blame games and power struggles. Be honest and ask yourself how much you blame your partner or others when things go wrong. Blame can be attractive because it can make us feel superior.
Nevertheless, if you truly want a successful relationship, you need to understand your blame and power triggers. Do you feel entitled to a certain lifestyle? How much does fear of rejection trigger your anger? What about expecting perfection from your partner?
The more you get to know yourself, the more you can let go of blame and the need for power. You can then share equal responsibility for solving problems with your partner. As this study onrelational empowerment demonstrates, this takes emotion regulation and empathy.
If you’re fully committed to the relationship and to making your partner happy, without being submissive of course, your positive feelings will gradually go up. The following dos and don’ts will then become natural habits.
1. Do: Unexpected acts of kindness
Marriage can become monotonous if you aren’t careful. One day blends into the next one, then all of a sudden, it’s 50 years down the line and you’re lucky if you can still hear or see each other.
To break the monotony up, happy couples surprise their loved ones with an unexpected gift or act of kindness from time to time. They know that if they just go through the motions, their old “go-to” moves will lose their flavor fast.
Fellas, flowers on a random Thursday will stick in her brain more effectively than the ones that you get her every year for your anniversary. Ladies, surprising him with the golf club he’s been eyeing will be remembered for years.
It’s not that anniversary gifts or birthday gifts are less meaningful; it’s just that they’re more expected. You’re not surprising anyone when that anniversary date rolls around. The gift is anticipated, therefore less memorable.
Take notes from happy couples and do something nice for your spouse when it’s unexpected. You’ll thank me later.
2. Don’t: Stop complimenting
Since marriage is a lengthy courtship, compliments may fall by the wayside over time. You may think that since you said “I love you” 1,000 times and told your partner that they look good from time to time, you’ve done enough.
Happy couples never stop complimenting each other. As time wears on, it’s absolutely necessary to keep your partner in the loop on how you feel and what you’re thinking.
A happy couple knows that each of them is human and they both all need reassurance at times. If they feel like they’re not into each other anymore, some nasty things could potentially happen.
They could start looking for compliments elsewhere, which could easily put a strain on the trust and honesty within your relationship. It could also start to erode their self-worth and make them become a shell of their former self.
You may have married a radiant woman or dashing young man, but if you stop telling them these truths, they’ll forget faster than you do.
Happy couples stop resentment at its roots by clearly communicating with each other and trying to authentically resolve issues as they arise in the relationship. No one is perfect and negative emotions are part of being human.
Tensions will surely be strained at some point during a lifetime of partnership. Happy couples do a great job of letting their arguments not become issues that sit below the surface for years.
In fact, conflict management is one of the secrets of happy couples. It’s even beneficial to keep growing and changing the status quo. Happy couples don’t suppress resentment though. They work through different types of communication according to context.
In summary, the greater your empathy and emotional intelligence, the more adept you become at using the appropriate communication style.
4. Don’t: Start or end your day without a kiss
In good times and bad times, having this routine keeps happy couples happy. It’s the best way to start and end your day, but it’s also a great reminder of the love that you share when things get stagnant or tense.
Knowing that that kiss is waiting regardless will keep those fights or disagreements in perspective. It’s a profound reminder that says, “I know things may be tense right now, but trust that I still love you.”
Couples that aren’t so happy take little habits like these for granted. They let one night go or let a few mornings pass without showing a little affection to their partner, and then, before you know it, the spark that they had on their wedding day has all but vanished.
Keep the love alive and give your partner some sugar as you wake up and as you drift off to sleep. Couples who are happy know that it’s the little things that make the difference.
In essence, showing gratitude releases some happy chemicals in our brains. As thisarticle on the neuroscience of gratitude summarizes, the more we release those chemicals, the more we see the positives in life.
Happy couples don’t just know this, they live it every day.
6. Don’t: Blame but look inside first
Happy couples know that it takes individuals to create a partnership. Each one has done their personal work on letting go of judgemental thoughts. Moreover, each person approaches the partnership with curiosity and an open mind.
An important part of this is to listen deeply to your partner. What is their reality like and what are they experiencing? How are your assumptions clouding your views? With empathy, you can then share what you feel and what you need.
A useful framework for approaching conversations calmly is thenon-violent communication framework. It takes a bit of practice but the idea is to use I-statements to state what you observe and what you feel. This moves you away from the blame game.
7. Do Spend quality time together regularly
Generally, happy couples in love want to take time out for each other. Having said that, life’s stressors sometimes take over. Perhaps you have a sick child or financial worries?
It can be hard to take time out in those situations. Nevertheless, that’s when you need it the most. It isn’t about splurging out in a restaurant, it’s simply to be there for each other. You don’t even have to talk because touch communication is just as impactful.
Sitting next to each other on the sofa watching a 20-minute show can be enough. You can also read a book, listen to some music or go for a walk. Whatever it is, make sure you make space for each other.
If you want to be part of a happy couple, you need to get to know your emotions. Otherwise, the danger is that they’ll be in control of you. How often do you say something you don’t really mean or fly off the handle for what seems to be little reason?
All those reactions are deep subconscious triggers that need to be resolved. A useful technique for getting to know your emotions is journaling. You can simply write your stream of consciousness.
Another way to do journaling is to reflect back on the day and consider what emotions were in play when you were triggered. The more you make sense of your emotions through writing, the easier you can preempt your triggers.
Of course, the work is harder than it sounds and often it’s worth working with a therapist. Nevertheless, happy couples talk about their emotions and how they feel. They’re not afraid to be open about them and to help each other make sense of them.
9. Do: Align your values and goals
It’s beneficial to know what other couples do when it comes to encouraging compatibility. First, they compare values and what’s important to them in life. So, for example, do they prioritize adventure and independence over having children?
It can be mind-boggling to pick out the values that are truly yours versus those dictated by society. For instance, many people only realize too late in their lives that power and money don’t make them happy.
If you’re not sure what your values are, have a look at this video which talks you through some practical steps for determining your priorities:
Secondly, once you know your values, your goals become clearer because how you manage your money and your life supports maximizing your values. To the happy couple, this is obvious. They also know that values change throughout our lives.
That’s why fulfilled couples are constantly re-aligning and checking in where they are in relation to their future goals, both as individuals and as a couple.
We can’t expect our partners to meet all our needs. This puts far too much pressure on the other person and depresses you when those needs aren’t met.
To live a full life we need a variety of avenues to find contentment. We have friends, families, hobbies, sports, alone time and many more options.
The secret though is to be open and clear with your partner. As this article onYour Partner’s Needs describes, there will be some negotiation involved. You acknowledge and appreciate your partner’s needs for yours to be met with understanding.
11. Do: Demonstrate affection
Intimacy doesn’t just happen. The things happy couples do revolve around cultivating that intimacy. They work through the natural tension that occurs between two people’s expectations.
Many people hold the misconception that intimacy comes to them. On the contrary, if you can’t demonstrate intimacy with yourself, you won’t be able to receive it. In practical terms, this means that you reach out and share your intimate thoughts and feelings.
Likewise, you open yourself up to your partner and their thoughts and feelings. The more you share, the more they share and the more the relationship deepens. At that point, acts of affection just happen because you’re in sync with each other.
With all this intimacy, it’s worth knowing what other couples do to respect their privacy. Everyone has different definitions but the skill of a great relationship is to balance your need for alone time.
Interestingly, the better you are at alone time, the more intimacy you can develop with your partner. This alone time shouldn’t be spent wallowing in past regrets. Instead, self-reflect on how you want to grow and move forwards. What habit do you want to let go of?
During self-reflection, you become more intimate with your habits of thinking and how you jump to conclusions. With time you can even preempt them and talk about them more accurately with your partner.
13. Do: Problem-solve together
To the happy couple, it’s normal for them to know their methodologies. They regularly check in to share what issues they’re avoiding and what’s missing for them today.
As part of this check-in, they’ll also review the strengths of their relationship and how they can work together to keep improving it. Most of the time, this check-in process pre-empts problems or at least resolves them before they escalate.
Couples who are happy use humor skillfully to remove defenses. Of course, humor isn’t always appropriate but it can help to not take ourselves too seriously.
There are many different models for happiness but thisarticle on happiness summarizes the key concept. Essentially, happiness is a feeling of positive well-being along with the satisfaction that our life has meaning.
Another way to think of it is that happiness is a mindset and it’s a journey rather than an end-point. How we see happiness is also influenced by our culture, society and life experiences.
The more you can see your life as positive though, the more you can nurture happiness for your partner. You then love generously, have fun together and cultivate your own sense of humor as a couple.
15. Do: Accept negative emotions
The concept of happy couples who live on a constant honeymoon is both unrealistic and impossible. Life comes with negative emotions and the more people fight that thought, the more they suffer.
Relationships are an ongoing project of challenges and learning. Both partners have to be willing to keep evolving their skills and to keep checking in with each other. The most successful couples talk about their negative emotions and how their triggers blind them.
To accept negative emotions, you must first label them. You then get to know them and how they impact you. So, for example, if your partner comes home late from work, do you get angry?
Dig deeper though to discover the core belief behind that anger. Do you feel rejected? Perhaps you’re frustrated because the dinner you made is cold? Do you need more recognition?
Whatever it is, a grounded and fulfilled couple isn’t afraid to talk about those emotions and find a way to make both partners feel content the next time something similar happens.
Qualities of fulfilled and content couples
What is a happy relationship? Psychoanalyst and author Gerald Schoenewolf explains in his article that a happy relationship involves5 key characteristics.
These are the ability to talk about feelings and to accept each other for who they are. They discuss problems openly and are comfortable being vulnerable together. All this is fuelled by passion, love and commitment.
Studies, such as this one describing thefactors of a successful marriage, further show that happy couples also trust each other and are more than just lovers. They’re also friends and they make decisions together.
Naturally, all of this assumes that both people are emotionally grounded and healthy. If not, counseling or therapy would be the most helpful option.
How do we decipher what’s behind happy couples?
So, what do couples do in a relationship? What’s the secret to joining the club of happy couples in love? As this article on thesecrets to a happy relationship lists, there are many tips to follow.
These tips range from making an effort and being honest to setting relationship goals and even going to therapy together. Most importantly, it’s about taking pleasure in the little things.
Simple thank yours and kind gestures make all the difference to happy couples who look for the positive in life. You too can find your friend and lover by focusing on all the things your partner does right.
Questions related to what couples do differently
Check out the important questions below:
How do positive couples deepen their relationship?
What is a happy relationship? It’s one where there’s trust, intimacy and open communication. That means sharing your inner thoughts and feelings without worrying about being judged.
You both respect each other too much and you know that you’re only human so of course you both have a dark side. Talking about this dark side and helping each other embrace it and improve it only brings you closer together.
Being vulnerable with this dark side not only deepens your relationship with each other but also with yourself. The journey of personal growth and inner healing isn’t about fixing things. It’s about embracing all of ourselves, warts and all.
Then, of course, there’s physical contact and how touch brings you closer together. A hug and a loving look go a long way to making you both feel connected.
What routines and rituals do happy couples follow?
What do couples do in a relationship? There’s clearly the morning and evening kiss but a happy couple also develops their own special set of habits.
So, some might send loving text messages or leave a cup of coffee on the side if they leave for work early. They might bring home a fun dessert to indulge in together once in a while.
Besides all these moments of affection, they’ll have their date nights and alone times set. Perhaps Friday night is their night together but Sunday morning is when they both have their separate time out.
Whilst they’ll both follow their own self-care routine, they prioritize each other’s needs. They do this by being curious about what the other person is feeling and will find ways to support them when required.
Rituals and routines are there to create a special bond that sets the couple apart from others. It’s almost like a secret language that promotes intimacy and understanding. That’s how they find balance and security in their partnership.
How do couples stay fulfilled and content for the long term?
To be happy in the long run, couples support each other’s growth. They accept that they each have flaws that need working on and they help each other accordingly. This stops them from making assumptions that can lead to dangerous conclusions.
Everyone needs a guide at some point in their life. Whether this is in the form of counseling, coaching orrelationship counseling doesn’t matter. The idea is that someone impartial can be a sounding board to your negative thoughts and help you get to know your triggers.
We all have fears and unhelpful beliefs that blind us. A therapist or coach lets you see past those so that you can truly discover your needs and dreams. We often find ourselves following others’ dreams and expectations and this can bring unnecessary tension into a marriage.
Therapy isn’t just to work through mental illness. These days it’s also a positive experience to work out what you want from life and how to nurture healthy habits.
Nurture your happy coupledom
Living as a happy couple doesn’t just happen as if by magic or amazing compatibility. It takes personal work and effort. On top of that, you need commitment, mutual respect and empathy.
The secrets to a happy relationship assume that both of you are emotionally stable and healthy. Then you can accept that negative emotions and events are part of life. So, you face those challenges together with open communication, honesty and trust.
In many cases, relationship counseling can be a valuable way to resolve past issues for each of you. Together with your therapist, you’ll also work out how your values and goals align. You’ll learn techniques to balance your individual and couple’s needs.
From there, the art is to keep growing your life skills individually and together. With compassion and humor, you keep nurturing love and happiness as a state of mind and a never-ending journey.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.